Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cooking and baking for a newcomer to Europe

It’s not THAT difficult, but I’ve learned a few things since we arrived from Massachusetts. Some people have strong preferences for gas or electric cooktops- I’ve always had electric so it was fine with me to get the same type here. Some kitchens don’t have major appliances in them upon arrival, so we were lucky to have a built-in oven/stove, fridge, and dishwasher. 
You can cook everything from scratch, of course, and there are plenty of semi-fully prepared foods on hand as well. I was a bit nervous to experiment with the oven, not only due to lack of familiarity with Celcius, but there are a bunch of different functions on the second oven knob. The user manual gives a chart, but trying to understand it in German was like having a lawyer or finance person write the instructions for baking! Lasagna was the first try, when I could keep an eye on the bubbling sauce to have a sense of “done-ness” while learning about the temperatures.
For baking, I elected to buy two boxes of German mix so I could read the directions on baking temps and times, hopefully bringing some edible snacks to church. How surprised was I to find a small cardboard baking dish inside the box of brownie mix! So much for the 9x13 pan I already had. FYI, the mix would not have filled my “oversized” American dish, but the cardboard one was just the right size for the mix. 
The box of lemon muffin mix also included 12 paper muffin liners that didn’t need to go into a muffin pan, just on a cookie sheet. Jeff and I disagreed about our refrigerator situation. I had hoped to go “European” and make due with the smaller fridge/freezer in the kitchen. Some of the houses we looked at had a second “normal” American fridge elsewhere in the house- because it wouldn’t fit in a regular (small-ish) German kitchen. For example, the second fridge was stashed in the dining room or basement. Jeff was convinced we would need additional cool storage space, and it turns out he was right. I had hoped to buy veggies from the farmer’s market and go to small local grocery stores perhaps more than once per week. Then I started working full time, and I quickly realized that I was back to a cooking marathon on Sunday afternoons, preparing at least two full dinners and numerous plastic food storage containers to bring to work with salads, leftovers, etc. in them. Plus some freezer containers with dinner portions for future meals. We haven’t used the second refrigerator section much, but the freezer in the basement holds some pizzas, larger bags of American frozen veggies,  leftovers, etc. 

Do you have any "get ready for the work week" food prep tips or any European cooking/food storage tips?

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